Excerpt from Dan’s SF Book

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An Isekai Story

The man of no particular distinction was transported into a different world. He opened his eyes . He was in a small glade with sunlight streaming through the trees. A beautiful witch was standing there. The man of no particular distinction was surprised, but this was exactly what he had read about in the fantasy novels he was addicted to.

“Am I in a new world? Can I finally make a name for myself?” he said.

The witch smiled.

“Yes. I have called you here because I want you to destroy a great evil. A tyrant has conquered the city and he razed my village to the ground with his troops. I was the only survivor. I have held vengeance within my heart, seeking for the opportune moment to summon a heroic spirit such as yourself to aid in my vendetta.”

He felt magic power throb in his muscles. He roared. She led him out of the glade to a camp whereby the rest of her comrades were waiting. They roared in joy as well. They provided him with armor and weapons. They taught him how to fight. The training was tough but he made many friends. A few months later, he was ready.

In the dead of the night, the band stormed the castle. The gates were opened thanks to a spy that had managed to get on the inner court’s good side. The night guards were surprised, and they were cut down before they could react. Eventually, the rebellion reached the inner sanctum of the King.

Seated on the throne was a youth in jeans and a sweater – a man of no particular distinction much like himself.

He stood up.

He walked over to the center of the room.

He drew out his sword.

The first man was flabbergasted. He noticed that his allies were standing by the side. They watched without interfering.

“You fool!”

The second man screamed.

“You are now the plaything of an Elder One! This grand show of Rebel and Tyrant is all a sham! If I should slay you, then you will be the next liege, and if you should slay me then I will retain my position! We shall all be eventual losers in this endless dance! And all the winner receives is a short stint of luxury before he has to return to the arena! Even then, that witch will always be there, reminding you that your soul shall eventually be hers to consume!”

The first man looked to the witch. She looked the same, but there was something sinister about her now. It was as though, behind that face, was a monster made of many eyes and the countless screams of the forgotten.

“The soul that is slain shall be eaten. But there is only one solution! You must die by your own hand! Only that way will you be spared from the accursed tentacles of Azathoth!”

The first man was in a pit and confusion as despair. Had it all been a lie? He was still a man of no particular distinction, and he was now going to be consumed in a dark pit of some alien mouth. Either that, or he had to fight to survive, and then die in a later day.

It was too much for him.

He took his blade, and gutted himself.

His blood spilled on the floor.

The last thing he saw, was the smile of the second man, leering at him with a ghastly face.

When the performance was over, the second man breathed a sigh of relief. The ‘rebels’ cleared the corpse away. The witch walked over to his side and sat on his lap. The night guards that had been ‘stabbed’ wiped away the fake blood from their armor.

“My liege. It seems that the next hero shall appear in the Day of Fires at the Stonehook Mountain. That is what is written in the stars.”

The second man gave the witch a kiss on the cheek.

“Excellent. I am glad to have been the first one to think of this. I don’t want any other losers getting in the way of my agricultural reform just because they want to play Hero and lead a meaningless rebellion. Soon, we shall finally have enough men and supplies to assault the Demon King’s Castle in the East.”

Outside of the castle, peasants labored away in square fields. It was the method developed by Chinese civilization that helped to maximize their own growth. But it was a method that did not work unless the people were co-ordinated to ensure that everything was working well together. The king was a pragmatic tyrant. He was inspired by the Legalist methods that he read in history books to help in administration of the Kingdom.

The main reason why the Kingdom was so easily besieged by the Demon King was precisely because of this lack of order. The ‘heroic spirit’ system was a stupidity that made the citizenry constantly look up to the heavens for a savior rather than take matters into their own hands. A few old documents and studies done by the scholars of the inner sanctum even contained the theory that this was an arrangement determined by the Demon King himself – done in order to ensure that only the weakest heroes would stand in his way while keeping the citizenry placated with false hope.

But, in a few years, they would finally stand a chance. It was a plan that was not made from relying on heroes, but it was made from the sweat of men.

The witch left the king’s lap, and headed off to continue her preparation for the next ‘summoning’. To help another poor sap get ‘adjusted’ into his new world.

This was going to be a new world all right. Just not what they were expecting.

Amateur Translations – Zhuangzi: The Fish Story

I recently read somewhere – some Chinese philosophy blog – that putting Zhuangzi into the Chinese Classics was like putting Monty Python next to the Plato’s Republic or something like that. It probably wasn’t to say that you shouldn’t take it seriously (although, actually that was probably one of the goals of the Zhuangzi though in a different sense from why we don’t take Monty Python seriously) – but that the style was crafted in a completely different way from something like the Tao Te Ching or the Analects.

Anyway I’m randomly picking up Classical Chinese, and I saw the excerpt for the famous fish story in the open source course I was doing. The course is over here – it uses texts from Chinese Classics and explains the grammar in each one. Of course, it would really help to be able to understand normal Chinese before you take the course here.

Continue reading

Practicum For Aesthetes – Playing the Stringless Qin

1.

Appreciating beauty is one of the thriftiest hobbies in the world. The moment you understand the principles behind it, traversing a single line or image can provide as much joy as climbing the highest mountains to view the finest scenery. Afterwards, you feel less of a need to spend exorbitant amounts on expensive trips all over the world.

This is exemplified best by a sentence in Hagiwara Sakutaro’s story Cat Town:

しかるに過去の経験は、旅が単なる「同一空間における同一事物の移動」にすぎないことを教えてくれた。何処へ行って見ても、同じような人間ばかり住んでおり、同じような村や町やで、同じような単調な生活を繰り返している。

“Nonetheless, my past experiences taught me that travel is no more than the simple “movement of the same thing within the same space.” No matter where you go, you find the same kinds of people live, repeating the same kinds of monotonous lives, in the same kinds of villages or towns.”

Therefore I do not seek to convince one to understand beauty from the perspective of developing ‘elite tastes’ – but merely from the perspective of economics. Thanks to the internet, we have unprecedented exposure to beautiful things in the form of free texts and pictures. If you can understand the merest aesthetic enjoyment, you can live as the eternal thrift like Warren Buffet – and forge enough of a personal wealth from abstinence, in order to carry out the greatest investments into the sectors of the industry.

Take note that this is only a possibility – in practice, aesthetes have lived with exorbitant decadence. The ideal is the Chinese ‘sage-type’ aesthete. A Chinese saying or anecdote that is frequently attached to such an entity is that he plays a ‘stringless qin’ – based on the story of poet Tao Yuanming who did just that. The implication is that the poet was so attuned to the aesthetic side that he did not even need strings to feel the lyricism emanating from life itself.

2.

The general rule is to never let a work go until you have understood it. In other words, you must not stop your criticism at saying – “this work is 2deep4me” or “this work is a confusing mess”. That merely indicates a thought-destroying cliché that your brain is falling back into. Even if you view it as a matter of taste – taste can still have a certain amount of thorough explanation, and this means that you are not even sure of your own tastes.

Let me, for example, take a random Hagiwara translation:

A damned thief dog
Is howling at the moon above the rotting wharf
A soul listens,
And in gloomy voices,
Yellow daughters are singing in chorus,
Singing in chorus,
On the wharf’s dark stone wall.

Always,
Why am I like this,
Dog
Pale unhappy dog?

Take note that I am critiquing the translation, and for the sake of this analysis I will assume this is the only text.

Confusion, in this case, comes from the juxtaposition of certain images that appear in a dreamlike way – out of nothing. Firstly there’s a dog, then the setting of the place, then a second entity that views, and then a third series of entities that are the “yellow daughters” – finally, it ends with the poet’s own statement.

The question then is whether this confusion is used appropriately. Although the imagery is disjunct logically, they form a certain kind of atmosphere. “Damned thief dog”, and “howling at the moon” and “rotting wharf” and “dark stone wall” – form a Gothic and dark moody sense. Because of this sense created, the ‘yellow daughters’ is given the connotation of a different kind of yellow. Like a sickly kind of yellow – just like that story the Yellow Wallpaper. Even the word ‘soul’ takes on a spectral tremor due to these series of connotations. In other words, it is only confusing in logic, but not in sense.

Once you understand the mood of the first stanza, then, when you link it to the second stanza, the scene in the first becomes a stark connotation to the poet’s internal state. Once he identifies himself as the dog, the positioning of the poem becomes obvious.

But you then have to ask the question – is it an aesthetically pleasing sense? This depends on the constitution of the reader. The first barrier is, of course, a reader who can suspend logical connection for the sheer feeling of the mood. If you are not this kind of reader, you are already exempt from this sphere of appreciation – no words from any poet or prose master will ever touch you. Once you are past that barrier – then it depends on whether you are the type of person who can appreciate the Gothic or mournful mood itself. That requires a certain kind of disposition. If you are the kind of person who only ever likes Songs of Innocence by William Blake or hymns of praise – then you are also exempt from the sphere of appreciation.

But there are also those who surpass the sphere of appreciation – whilst fully understanding the sense of the poem. This is the realm whereby a person who wants to reject the poem should aim for. In other words, it is the person who knows that – if he wanted to experience this kind of mood, he can access better quality stuff elsewhere.

For one – a poem whose contents is the explication of a lonely scene, and ends with the poet’s exhortation of woe – is basically a massive cliché in Classical Chinese poetry.

Here, for example, is a translation of a Du Fu poem:

After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
The solitary old man worries and grieves.
Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
The ladle’s cast aside, the cup not green,
The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
To many places, communications are broken,
I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.

Of course, Du Fu wrote with Classical rigor – and so he does not have the same colloquial or free verse sense of the Hagiwara poem. But this is only one example – there are thousands of such poems already existing within the reams of Chinese poetry out there.

Hagiwara has an edge in being starker – with ‘damned’ and calling himself a dog and whatever. That may provide a more gritty sense than Du Fu.

But Hagiwara would lose out to starkness in the way that Plath does it – for example:

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Then what about the imagery itself? In terms of imagery – he isn’t really that far from the Symbolists that came before him. Neither does he provide a counter-point by using that kind of imagery but having a twist at the end where he might say something like:

Always
But I am like this
Dog
A pale happy dog

If you have a moody psychological image in the first stanza, you can expect it to end with a psychological exhortation of misery. On the other hand, this provides a slight mode of acceptance to the poem – it points out of the poet’s feelings.

I’m not saying that the poem must point out – but that since so many people have already written poems that point into – creating their own psychological image landscape, then if you’re going to do the same you might as well provide a twist.

Of course, there are people who have done the twist before already – so merely changing it to ‘happy’ will not make Hagiwara’s stand out that much.

As you can see – the steps of appreciation are very simple: What is the sense of the poem as I understand it? -> Why might this sense be beautiful? -> Do I appreciate it in the end?

3.

The problem is making a critique that is special for the poem – that tells us of its significance. For example, it’s very easy to speak of the poem as a ‘lonely poem’ – but why is that significant?

Let’s say I take this critic from the Asian Review of Books:

In “Unknown Dog”, the poet examines the darkness of his heart, and the haunting shadow of solitude:

Ah, no matter how far, how far I go,
this utterly unknown dog follows me,
crawling along the filthy ground,
behind me, dragging its hind leg, a sick dog,
distant, long, sadly terrified,
at the lonely moon, howling afar and pale, an unhappy dog’s shadow.

The dog is symbolic of the hidden threats in life: loneliness, unfulfillment, and the vulnerability of man.

I could literally write something like this:

In “Unknown Dog”, the poet examines the darkness of his heart, and the haunting shadow of solitude:

I am being followed by a poodle
This filthy poodle is a dog
It is a shadow of my dog
It is a dog

The dog is symbolic of the hidden threats in life: loneliness, unfulfillment, and the vulnerability of man.

And you would not have told me a single inkling of why I should appreciate it because it is an image of loneliness.

These are also images of loneliness, unfulfillment, and the vulnerability of man:

I wanted chocolate ice-cream,
But all I got was vanilla –
It pains my heart.

I am like a butterfly caught in the middle of a giant field
That is slowly being eaten by the massive rotors
Of grinding tractors
Driven by blue screaming prostitutes

The plain sock
In the washing machine
Is being swept away by torrents of water and water
While it spins, cyclic – isolated

The test results came back
And my friend was so happy that he laughed
But I could not laugh
Because I failed
And I was the only one who failed
Because
I’m stupid

A great sign that you are saying nothing is if your criticism can apply to a wide variety of things – just by changing a few key terms.

4.

But – this raises a question.

If I am so critical of the appreciation – then aren’t I not playing the stringless qin?

Well, I have a different interpretation of the term.

Some people might view that playing the stringless qin refers to bending your taste to fit a poem. By bending your taste in a variety of ways, you can fit an infinite amount of poems.

But – to me – that is not playing the stringless qin. That is being played like a stringless qin.

To play the stringless qin means to have the poetry emanate directly from your own being, so that you do not have to rely on the creations of others as much. If you can recreate the mood yourself, with your own poem or music, there is no need to read poetry.

If I could paint like Picasso or Dali – why would I need to look at them? Much less – why would I need to buy them on the auction house?? This is the economic benefit of understanding how to play the stringless qin.

To play the stringless qin is to understand the cause and effects of the works you witness – and to understand how to invoke those cause and effects.

(Take note that ‘effect’ is different from ‘intention’ or ‘interpretation’ – it exists before them. When you understand cause and effect – you do not need to intend to write something, and neither do you care about the multivariant interpretations of it – you will simply replicate the cause to derive the effects. It is the difference between an amateur writer who intends to write about his love, but is unable to do so in a satisfactory way – and a writer who may not have experienced the same passions of love– but still successfully writes about love itself from observation.)

In this view, there is a difference between a person who critiques viciously for pure destruction, and a person who critiques viciously – but his disposition coolly integrating it into his being. In other words, he is destroying it to use it – and he is adding his strings to the stringless qin. On the surface, though, there may be no difference in tone between these two types of critics.

Thus, the Death of the Critic is the Birth of the Artist. This is because he no longer critiques, but he synthesizes.

Happy is he who uses a hammer to play the stringless qin!

Madoka Fanfiction

It seems that people who complete SubaHibi usually post long reviews either trying to dissect the plot or gushing over what an impact it had on their worldview/life/meaning.

On the other hand, I decided to write Madoka Fanfiction.

Amateur Translations – Asairo Introduction

Introduction

Supposedly very bitching difficult to translate – but I have tried over here, at least, the introduction. Of course translation always involves the tradeoff between flow & meaning – and my motto is to try and minimize stuff like footnotes as much as I can. Try to fit the information into parenthetical – and maintain the flow of the text. So far the introduction has only one considerably tricky portion.

As to my actual progress in the game, I reached the point just slightly after the moment where a lame ecchi anime trope is given to the level of pathos and poetry that is akin to those memory recollection scenes in Proust – and so I decided that I should probably wait until I can parse the content at a faster rate so that I can feel the full rush.

For the comparison below, the furigana is placed in brackets. The dots are the emphasis/italicization furigana, but I didn’t really carry that over into the translation this time.

Translation

And among the mountains – dyed vivid hues.

As if – from the sky – varied splatters of paints toppled and spilled, soaking into bright tones.

All differing values and strengths. Had you looked at this mountain-covered canvas – the season was before you – a single sheet of ‘Fall’.

And with the season came the donning of new coats for the trees – red and yellow – for the construction of the autumnal colors.

The autumn reds of the region. It’s normal to forget, and let pass – but there’s still that cognizance – that the change of colors stems from trees with leaves to be shorn.

Constant to the name ‘Evergreen’ – they maintain their leaves.

But there are no such thing as year-long waters, and the genial equilibrium maintaining these trees – such an ideal environment is bound for collapse.

They relinquish leaves – to live.

And so leaves fall – because the trees begin to retain the nourishment they would have otherwise sent to the leaves, and these excised leaves would sigh and grieve at their separation – thus, turning pale.

As those leaves cast away in red have been ‘red-leaving’
As those leaves cast away in yellow have been ‘yellow-left’
As those leaves cast away in sable have been ‘sable-lived’

Each and all shedding their tears.

This weeping is commonly known as ‘Maple’.

Now, it isn’t particularly that I have this enjoyment from the tears of the trees – in truth, today is also my ‘ascent to school’.

“This school forms the egg of the artist. But the entrance is narrow, and, from within, you must bite and scratch at the shell with everything you have.”

This school – “Yumemidori Academy” – a school for dreaming fledglings – you could rightly say that this is my place of enrollment.

Many have wished it, but fewer get through.
The holy mountain for artistic aspirants – which may explain the narrowness of the gate.

Its alumni are always making ripples in the world.
And the profession of an artist is based on rocky foundations – so can you exactly understand how singularly strange this is?

If I were to draw a graph – could I surmise how weird this is?

This faith in the name of Yumemidori Academy (though some may call it ‘branding’) is such that – even putting the actual administration aside – the rumors of the violent culling occurring during enrollment period is enough to protect its status.

It isn’t a matter of quantity.
Amongst the thousand, should we discern only one – we will be glad to profit in him.
Otherwise, let the thousand fall.

This holy mountain stands tall, even amongst mountains.

A place for students to get their flash of inspiration – and taking that into consideration – also a concentration point of productive activity. The choosing leads to the corresponding consequence – so it is said.

With not a private house in sight, it bears itself as a solitary rock in a sea of mountain points.

And today, I find myself headed for the open gates of Yumemidori Academy – currently ascending the mountain.

Where the summit seats the castle of our dreams – and we, who are our wishes, can only struggle through.

Japanese Comparison

(1) 山中を染め上げる鮮やかな色彩。

Translation
And among the mountains – dyed in vivid hues.

(2) まるで空から大小様々な絵の具を降り零したかのような、明色の染み──

Translation
As if – from the sky – varied splatters of paints had toppled and spilled, soaking into bright tones.

(3) 濃淡も強弱も異なれど、山を一つの画布 (カンバス)として見れば、そこに出来上がるのは“秋”という名の一枚絵だ。

Translation
All differing values and strengths. Had you looked at this mountain-covered canvas – the season was before you – a single sheet of ‘Fall’.

(4) この季節になると樹木の葉は赤色や黄色に衣替えをして、そこに紅葉の風景を作り上げる。

Translation
And with the season came the donning of new coats for the trees – red and yellow – for the construction of the autumnal colors.

(5) それがこの国の秋の風景──なんて認識が当たり前 のようにまかり通っているけれど、実は色が変わるのは落葉樹林だけなのだ。

Translation
The autumn reds of the region. It’s normal to forget, and let pass – but there’s still that cognizance – that the change of colors stems from trees with leaves to be shorn.

(6) 常緑樹林はその名の通り、常に葉を保持する。

Translation
Constant to the name ‘Evergreen’ – they maintain their leaves.

(7) けれど年中水分に不足せず、温暖で居心地のいい環境──なんて、樹木にとって理想的な環境はそうそうない。

Translation
But there are no such thing as year-long waters, and the genial equilibrium maintaining these trees – such an ideal environment is bound for collapse.

(8) だから樹木は葉を落とす。生き残る為に。

Translation
They relinquish leaves – to live.

(9) 葉が落ちるっていうのは、つまり樹木が葉に送っていた養分を自身に蓄え始めた為であり、切り捨てられた (・・・・・・・) 葉は──まるで捨てられた事を嘆くかのように、色を失う。

Translation
And so leaves fall – because the trees begin to retain the nourishment they would have otherwise sent to the leaves, and these excised leaves would sigh and grieve at their separation – thus, turning pale.

(10) 葉が赤色に失われるものを“紅葉 (こうよう)”──

葉が黄色に失われるものを“黄葉 (おうよう)”──

葉が褐色に失われるものを“褐葉 (かつよう)”──

Translation
As those leaves cast away in red have been ‘red-leaving’
As those leaves cast away in yellow have been ‘yellow-left’
As those leaves cast away in brown have been ‘’brown-lived’

Commentary
The 葉 array are used in the sense of verbs (from the を) despite being nouns, but よう can also map to the verb ‘use’ or ‘utilized’. So there’s a double-pun involving leaves being mixed with ‘used’.

Actually I’m not 100% sure whether that’s the purpose, but the connotation exists, and he also used the lesser known reading of ‘おう’ for yellow, when it can also be read as こうよう. The word 応用 (おうよう) may also be 鷹揚 – the first contains ‘heart’ in it while the second means large-hearted or generous. 活用(かつよう) maps to the concept of ‘life’ – as in ‘daily use’.

This gives a plethora of approaches to translation. The lowest approach is to just take it as a noun and write something like “As those leaves cast away in red have been formed ‘red-leaves’. Second approach is to take it as ‘use’ and focus solely on that connection “As those leaves cast away in yellow have been used till yellow”. Third approach is to try to get both, and all the other semantic connotations – which is probably impossible unless you can think of a higher level pun – “yellow-folioled” (yellow-fellowed)?

All of these concepts of ‘leaving behind’ and ‘generosity’ are quite relevant to what comes shortly after though – with regards to the protagonist’s past and all that. So there is that layer to look over.

(11) これはそれぞれが泣いた結果。

Translation
Each and all shedding their tears.

(12) ──この涙を総称して、“紅葉 (もみじ)”と呼ぶ。

Translation
This weeping is commonly known as ‘Maple’.

(13) さて、俺は別に葉の涙を観賞しにきたわけではない。
実は、俺は今“登校中”なのだ。

Translation
Now, it isn’t particularly that I have this enjoyment from the tears of the trees – in truth, today is also my ‘ascent to school’.

(14) 「──その学び舎には芸術家の卵が集う。だがその門は狭く、卵であるにも内側から殻を食い破る才覚が必要だ──」

Translation
“This school forms the egg of the artist. But the entrance is narrow, and, from within, you must bite and scratch at the shell with everything you have.”

(15) 俺が入学した『夢見鳥学園』は、よくそんなふうにいわれている。

Translation
This school – “Yumemidori Academy” – a school for dreaming fledglings – you could rightly say that this is my place of enrollment.

(16) 入学希望者の数は非常に多く、しかし実際の生徒数は極端に少ない。
芸術家を志す者にとっての霊峰とまで呼ばれ、だからこそ、その門のいかに狭い事か。

Translation
Many have wished it, but fewer get through.
The holy mountain for artistic aspirants – which may explain the narrowness of the gate.

(17) ここの卒業生は常に世間の注目を集める。
芸術家なんて保証のない職業で、それがどれだけ特異な事だかわかるだろうか。

Translation
Its alumni are always making ripples in the world.
And the profession of an artist is based on rocky foundations – so can you exactly understand how singularly strange this is?

(18) それが成り立っている(・・・・・・・・)という図式が、どれだけ異常な事なのか。

Translation
If I were to draw a graph – could I surmise how weird this is?

(19) 夢見鳥学園という名の持つ信仰 (ブランド) は、経営を度外視しているとさえ噂される入学時の猛烈な振るい落としでこそ保たれている。

Translation
This faith in the name of Yumemidori Academy (though some may call it ‘branding’) is such that – even putting the actual administration aside – the rumors of the violent culling occurring during enrollment period is enough to protect its status.

(20) 人数なんて関係ない。
千人応募して一人でもお眼鏡に適う者がいれば儲けもの。
いなければ、ただ千人を落とすだけ。

Translation
It isn’t a matter of quantity.
Amongst the thousand, should we discern only one – we will be glad to profit in him.
Otherwise, let the thousand fall.

(21) その霊峰は、まさに山中にこそ聳 (そび) え立つ。

Translation
This holy mountain stands tall, even amongst mountains.

(22) それは生徒たちに閃き (インスピレーション) を与える場を考慮したものであり、同時に作品作りに集中できる舞台を選びに選んだ結果だという話だ。

Translation
A place for students to get their flash of inspiration – and taking that into consideration – also a concentration point of productive activity. The choosing leads to the corresponding consequence – so it is said.

(23) 付近に民家の一軒もなく、その様はまさしく山岳の孤島。

Translation
With not a private house in sight, it bears itself as a solitary rock in a sea of mountain points.

(24) 本日より、晴れて夢見鳥学園へと通う事になった俺は今、山を登っている。

Translation
And today, I find myself headed for the open gates of Yumemidori Academy – currently ascending the mountain.

(25) あの頂 (いただき) に座する芸術家志望 (おれたち) の王城へと、辿り着く為に──

Translation
Where the summit seats the castle of our dreams – and we, who are our wishes, can only struggle through.

Something That I Was Trying To Attempt

(Before this, I was trying this – to prove that English could get on the Romeo train.)

The fourth floor classroom. Gazing at the street, the dancing Sakura petals colored the view.

Spring. First year high school senior Naoyuki was seated at the windowside, stretching his gaze down below, immersed in a pose of elegant contemplation.

It was April.

Such showy impressions masked the hidden truth of the matter – the unease of any new entry.

With a new class, new acquaintances, and a whole new environment. Anybody would have suffered the ‘what-do-I-do?’ blues:

“Will I be bullied?”

“Will I cope with my club?”

“Will I make friends?”

“Will I keep up with lessons?”

With such a plague of worries, the first-years had stiff grins.

Still, only one person had freedom to catch the view with such a lax gaze.

This was a mode of being liberated from the worries of those green behind the ears.

Naoyuki had done it.

As usual, no – more than usual – he skilled the first step.

Friends, club, and class positioning.

At present, this advantageous post didn’t even take three days to create.

Through maintaining this early set-up, he leapt from unease to liberation.

From this skill came a slight arrogance in thought.

But, there was no worry of that leading to a displeasing reveal on his face.

Skillful and wise, with some precocity – that was the kind of youth he was.

The outside. Gaze drifting from his seat.

Everyone was freely mixing – fumbling, feeling – through the widening sphere of daily chatter.

A pleasant gentle air.

A class without much ill.

Naoyuki reflected on the state of class 1B.

The door burst open.

An impudent, rattling, ear piercing slam.

The class shushed into full silence.

The mood changed as if a gunshot rang through the town.

Naoyuki’s relaxed face wrinkled up at the small space between the eyebrows.

With both feet shoulder’s length apart, open wide, and standing firm, was the glasses-wearing girl.

For a while she stood in that class, sternly glaring

“Who’s that?”

“A transfer student? Don’t tell me it’s a transfer student?”

“It’s early for that – isn’t it?”

“Does anyone know her?”

All over class, it was bubbling over with noise.

As if finalizing her stand, she took a step forward.

Hey… what’s your business here?”

A lone girl spoke up in a trembling voice.

In disregard, she went up to the platform.

And placed her hand on the desk with a bang.

In the morning. The time of gathering before class. Every single one was staring at her.

There was silence. She said nothing.

About half a minute past – a skin splitting tension strained the air.

At that moment, Naoyuki was flabbergasted with his mouth flapping.

Within her hand was a drawn and naked blade.

When did she take it out, and how did she carry it in in the first place?

Wait, actually, the question should be – from whence came this snakishly coiling, unmistakably red fluctuating flame around the blade?

It was a fiendish flame that the girl brandished within both hands.

The seated Naoyuki – front row, next to the windows – could definitely feel bits of his fringe singed by the molten hot beating of the flame’s fiery hearth.


The Imano Prefecture High School was the crème de la crème elite of the elite high school in the prefecture.

It was university affiliated, but it was not a combination Junior-Senior high school. It practiced a non-escalation style of meritocratic selection, and was famous for its past unparalleled strictness in regards to regulations.

For the time being, while it still held that title, that was only in name and not reality. It had changed greatly.

After enrolling for one week, the actual teacher hadn’t even bothered to accept his leadership of the class.

“Monster-parents are scary…”

In the mornings the Tennis Club got together, heartily chewing on a post-training Pork Cutlet Sandwich, and talked about these kinds of things.

Short but well sculptured in his stature, with swinging tennis skills, and a strange swank in his information-gathering strategies – this Shimoyama Tomohiro was the kind of guy with a journeyman’s spirit.

He was full-in on the details, and dropped them over.

Some years ago, a Guardian brought forth a bundle of accusations regarding the overt severity of the school’s education praxis.

And when the school authorities resoundingly raised the one-line rebuttal of “tradition” against the projected concerns, some net-hero immediately made sure to introduce, to the whole world:

“The School of Tyranny! Who holds the right of students in disregard – I repeat – in disregard! Who disrespects the right to freely disrespect!”

And so and such attacks were levied against them.

In the end the school apologized, and thereafter it was heard that their targeted elite high-esteem faltered, and their rigor fell into a growing sloppiness.

And of course, this whole matter was not overlooked by the pre-examinee Naoyuki, who then thought: “Wow, this is truly the dark side of the net”.

But he still played to the admiration of his new friends.

“Monster parents – plus – net. Equals? Holy mother of combos…”

“Yet… the club’s still tight as fuck…”

The other club comrades sighed. It wasn’t serious – just talky stuff.

At once, cries of “Fuck, it’s tight!” and “The training just got shittier – double the shit!” determined the topic. With Naoyuki included, these were the tennis guys of 1B altogether.

Baseball had one. Soccer had two. Tennis was the population prima sports group in the class.

Two were experienced. The other two joined when they came in – shitty greenhorns. So Naoyuki didn’t need to forge a situation – this fact cemented his spot as a reliable pillar.

“Oh shit – there’s starter batting coming up. Hey man – can you help us get rackets?”

“Second that!”

so asked the two greenhorns.

“Sure. No worries.”

“5k in battle funds – Money O-K?”

“Double O-K. Honest – it’s three times of that. But for starters you usually rent, so 500 yen, or so, is still good.”

“Rental? You sure that’s good enough?”

Naoyuki knew tennis from middle school. He was a regular player when his alma mater took to the prefectural pros. Among the new entrees into Imano – he towered over them. So his friends kowtowed to his standard.

Watch it. A first-year with a brand new racket draws looks from the seniors.”

The other with experience was Shimoyama – and he was a great yarn-spinner. When he advised, all four laughed. They laughed, but his comic tales were useful anyway.

And then, the door was slid open with force.

Inside the class, the tension drove up.

The crushing presence lashed out in surges, from a single fearsome entity – who walked in. The student you’d never want to get too close with. Faces were turned or concealed.

It was today too. Those glasses. A bespectacled being of transcendence.

“It’s here…”

Shinoyama muttered that. He had more or less framed her a monster.

It was a week since matriculation.

Yet, with this girl – Kobayakawa Chihiro – it was three days.

That day, standing on the podium –

She introduced herself, as if that three-day delay was a non-issue.

“Due to reasons of sickness, I’m finally here. Kobayakawa Chihiro, from XX Middle School. Pleased to meet you.”

She had that air – most people seemed to think.

With a snap to her action, a sharp look, smartly cutting words, intelligent spectacles, and her clean spontaneity on the podium – she was deemed a supremely cool human being.

Naoyuki, though, was quite skeptical.

They crowded around her with curious questions. It was that ‘transfer-student atmosphere’ after all. The approach she relied on was courteous reply, but she kept a dulled face and didn’t smile.

His skepticism deepened.

The blazing blade was an illusion. Nobody else had seen it or mentioned knowing so.

Whether an illusion or a hallucination, it was only his eyes which had caught on to that hot aura – that vision.

A blazing blade. Some unknown meaning.

Like an anime?

That could have been a warning or something – so he thought.


His hunch was right, as verified the next day. The first victim.

Chihiro wasn’t well-known yet, so she was invited by a certain girl for karaoke, and she accepted. In the karaoke box that someone had tried to get her on alcohol. She refused, and firmly demanded that they not do this kind of thing. Her partner stiffly rejected that, and, dancing to a dance beat, hit the floor in a display of heavy drinking. Like a soccer player in a victory show – or something like that – she started dual-wielding beer bottles and chugging them down to stir up the opposition. That same day, that alcoholic girl was called up by the school. What we normally call – ‘dirty snitching’.

“To perform a royal screwing of someone like that without hesitation – I can’t believe it!”

That was Shinoyama, with his outrageous nuances.

“Royally ruthless… that’s what it is”

Naoyuki wholly concurred.

It was righteous. Yes, it was righteous, but also ruthless. That kind of person was a breaker of social peace. Truly outrageous.

Anyway, that heavy-drinking girl, Ugajin Ayako, was immediately carted off for acute alcoholism – an episode that would become a true legend in the history books. This pitiable soul was dumped in an ICU and plugged in the genitalia with a urethral balloon as well as a Lactec IV – and after suffering that humiliation at 10p.m. she was suspended for 5 days in accordance with an emergency staff meeting. Once Ugajin-papa got ahold of that from the police, he wailed. Probably because this was a repeat offense, or something like that, or maybe not.

You could call it an example of the saying “it never rains, but pours”.

The lone Kobayakawa Chihiro had done all this – completely unthinkable. 1B was in complete shock, as expected.

This was the first of her legends. A chain.

Ugajin’s pushy personality didn’t mesh well with the other girl-cliques, and they tried open diplomacy with Chihiro. So goes the reason: “An enemy of an enemy is a friend”.

“Wow that girl… I knew her in middle school to be one of those types who’d like chug beers with college students – and totally screwed herself silly. Like she completely deserved that now. Anyway – hang with us instead? Totally a palate cleanser. We’ve got a mixer with the guys at the basketball club. Of course – no beers.”

Chihiro, in the process of packing her bag, looked up emotionlessly, and curtly replied “illicit sexual relations are banned” – then went back to her own thing.

Eeeeh? Just a bit won’t hurt right? It’s not unhealthy, anyway. And it’s not like anything new… we’ve totally done this before. I mean, there’s a lot of cool guys there, and its total eye candy… that kind of thing you know. And you’ve also got this kind of attractive air that’s totally a hit over there. It’ll be a total man-feast… if you’re like coming, aren’t you?”

“Sorry, I don’t break rules.”

This time, she didn’t even look.

Eeeeeeeeh? It’s okay right, I mean rules are meant to be broken anyway. Then, how about just 30 minutes? Like get-together with the class?”

“No.”

Fine”, the girl grumbled. “That was like total rejection. So you have something on?”

Chihiro was pushing the last book in her bag.

“People who enroll and don’t follow the rules – are idiots.”

Directed at all the girls, those words left her lips.

After a while, with twitching smiles, a few tried to voice out and patch things up.

“Why so angry Kobayakawa?” and stuff or “well, it’s okay to stick to the rules, and I mean there’s those kind of people out there…” and stuff or “once in a while a breather is okay right?” and also “what’s do you mean by ‘idiots’?” and all that.

It was her last chance for rehabilitation.

To these sort of questions, she had to display the model answer.

“I’m sorry, did we have like a complete misunderstanding or something? It’s like you’re a bit irritated over here. I mean if I hit on anything, then I’m completely sorry? If there’s anything… I totally didn’t intend that, and it was like a bit confusing you know? Could we L-like make up or something?! I-I’m sure you’re okay… right?”

Maintenance of world peace was needed.

So, a practical answer was required here.

Chihiro stood up resolutely. The girls held their tongue.

Decadence.

And with this answer, she grabbed her bag and stuffed one hand in her pocket and walked out.

The one left behind, the clique leader, had her expression peeled off in an instant.

In a short while, tears were rising up from the corners of her eyes. She broke down and cried. Her friends came over for her. Naoyuki, on seeing all this, let out a huge sigh.

What a tragedy.

But Chihiro was the firestarter.

In a mere three days, she was alienated. No one addressed her. She didn’t have a particle of care.

While Naoyuki had obtained success in three days, she had obtained isolation.

Well, in that regard, they were equal.

She had called them idiots, but, to Naoyuki – Kobayakawa was the true idiot.


“So is Iijima off his club?”

This was Nakameguro. She was slightly more slow-tempo in speech than the rest.

This rather peculiar girl had no upper limit to the inertia of her diction – so she carried on without awareness of the collecting stress in the conversation. While she spoke, Naoyuki had already activated his internal fast-forward button who knows how many times.

Of course, to display irritation was to slay it, so he had to turn-on business mode.

“It’s Monday you know… for us…”

“Well, then next Monday, your ‘us’ and our ‘us’ should meet up and stuff right?”

That, was not what he meant – he thought.

Lately, Naoyuki had opened relations with one of the girl groups. Nakameguro was their ‘salesman’.

“This side’s OK. Where to?”

“It’s with Shiihara’s – she’s not from here, so she wants someone to guide around the station.”

The Shiihara group was a conspicuous quartet.

Not to mean they were glitzy or anything – but they were the cutting edge of pushing the style-limit within school regulations. Creatives, in other words.  They were the types who came to school to study the secret of living a good life. It was clear as day.

To be honest, Anacondas.

Carnivorous, aggressive reptiles.

No, they were cute. They were really cute. But – Anacondas.

He didn’t say that, of course. For the adroit Iijima Naoyuki – that would be a miss.

Within those four, Nakameguro was the only proper one.

Those self-assured queens looked down on any soft personalities, and, being a bit mean, found her character handy as a contact point. The gist of this is – a rabbit had slipped among those Anacondas.

Still, this rabbit had surpassed expectations, especially in her proficiency with the Evasive Maneuvers. On the repeat occasions when Naoyuki saw her use this, he felt her as a similar kin. It was complicated.

Furthermore, what they did was identical.

Envy-prevention maneuver: Group-with-group setting.

Oh!and, Konuma wanted to know what your hobbies were.”

What was this – a request? Anyhow, Nakameguro wasn’t the one requesting, probably. After all, her talk was rather careless.

“Other than tennis? In middle school… futsal, I guess.”

“Futsal heeeh? Memorandum… memorandum…”

She fake-scribbled it out with her finger. It was that kind of gag. Light laughter.

“And at home? What do you do at home?”

Completely stumped. For five seconds.

Nakameguro did a puzzled head tilt.

“It’s boring. Just music.”

“Oh? What music?”

In truth, she was merely Shiihara’s sleuth, but he still it held his in his chest, and rattled off a few popular artists. To add a little bit of reality into the picture, he split off from the mainstream slightly, threw in a few indie titles.

With an ‘uh-huh’, Nakameguro listened, and then provided critique.

“Wow, you’re quite cool!”

As expected, his predicted valuation came in.

It was expected, but it felt like he’d been branded as dull. That nuance was weighed in the feeling, and he felt slightly indignant.

“Well, see you later then.”

“Ah, wait a moment, wait a moment. Does Iijima have a girlfriend?”

With a frivolous laugh she inquired that – so she was being a proxy, probably. His heart didn’t waver.

“None.”

“Anyone you fancy?”

“Not yet.”

“Hmmh.”

She inclined her head with a bit of a surprise.


Every-time he arrived home, Naoyuki sighed loudly.

Or, more exactly, it wasn’t a sigh, but ventilation.

He suppressed his varied feelings in school. In here, on the other hand, was relaxation.

It was over – the acting and diplomatic touches were done for the day.

He dumped his load under the stairs. Flung off his coat. Pulled off his tie.

It was splendidly messy, and extremely ruinous to his reputation. But there were no guests – and he could carry all the mess up to the second floor quickly, if there were.

He took out his wear and track clothes from his Boston Bag, for laundry.

He plodded around with sticky socks, and threw those in when he passed the bathroom.

His father was struggling with the hot-pot in the living room.

“Back.”

“O-…”

Someone’s rear at the sofa. Hidden behind was his mother – sitting on the floor and cutting her toenails. Suit worn on. A mop of loose messy hair. She was in a tired state.

Without looking, blurting out a “welcome back”.

Bent forward, the tip of her panties peeked out from her skirt.

Dejectedly.

“I can see your panties.”

“…Hah.”

This was the corporation’s Cool Beauty, slovenly in the comfort of her own domain.

Staring vacantly at the big-screen television.

It was 7 o’clock. At this time, the club folks would be indulging in piping hot bread rolls on their way back. He felt strangely hungry.

“It’s here… come and get it!”

Fooood…” “Eaaaat…”

On hearing dad’s voice, mom & son lumbered over like zombies in search for prey.

Naoyuki’s father measured out the soup of the day in ample proportion, and began to break into commentary on this or that about the rack of lamb at his side – all on deaf ears. With the wear and hunger turning their brains into chaotic slosh, the other two had no structural recollection of events.

From the department store bakery, he had also bought a number of white round buns studded with walnut fragments. They could dive into that as much as they wanted, and so started with three. He also served out salad. With three kinds of tomatoes, it was colorfully arranged. There was even cheese sprinkled on.

The three sat down together, said “Itadakimasu” in chorus, and wholeheartedly began consumption.

“A….” “U…” “Muuuhh…..”

After all that club and work fatigue, dinnertime was when they reverted to their primitive state.

Once the stomach was full, his mother could finally form words.

“Nao? How was school?”

“Normal.”

“Any bullying?”

His father had asked that one, while yawning and chewing.

“It’s peaceful. There’s nothing bad. It seems unlikely.”

“You never know. It’s a group – so you better not drop your guard son.”

In his late thirties, his father was still youthful, and so was like a brother. There was no parental atmosphere. It was the same for his mother.

It was always a wonder.

Despite raising him, these two so-called parents had not much in common with Naoyuki. “Adoption?” – he sometimes questioned with distrust. But he was definitely their real son.

“It’s that. It’s what I always say – rather than be bullied, you should be on the bullying side, and then you’ll be happy.”

“…well, I know that…”

He had taken it in now. Although he took it in now, it came as a shock the first time. He couldn’t forget it.

They were unconditionally right – virtuous beings – was his impression.

In childhood, this was a truth to him.

Once he had come of age, they had released him from domestic education by breaking the ethical lock. From idealism to reality. Although evil was unforgivable, if it was dangerous – you should pretend not to look.

Their point – he was a high school student, and not a kid.

So they taught him that. It was better that one was taught that.

A different style of parenting.

As active personnel in the workforce – capable high earners – with an appearance and results that were characteristic of those born destined to be winners – was that an influence? Yes, it was. With these two, they had no conception of living life with the gait of poverty, or being the losing dog.

To trample on others for self-protection, was what they felt right.

Very weird parents indeed.

But, the idea that anybody would probably feel that they resembled their parents – Naoyuki had changed his mind about that.

“You can go easy. I’ve made it after all.”

“I see. Then that’s okay.”

Although there wasn’t any discord with them, the Iijima household had a kind of emptiness in the air.

And this was the air Naoyuki was brought up in.


He washed the tableware, watched television to his content, showered, and completed whatever he had to do on the ground floor. Then he carried his baggage up.

The household was affluent due to the dual-income high earners.

So it was quite a stately mansion.

Their huge garden even had hired help.

He was their only son, and so he was given a sunny room with wooden flooring the space of ten tatami mats. When his friends came in, there wasn’t a single one of them that wasn’t envious. It was a Godly Room.

When Naoyuki returned to his room, a strange phenomenon took over.

He developed a stoop like a cat.

Normally having to steel himself all the time, this room allowed him to let go. If he couldn’t, he’d never be able to live. His internal ventilation fan went at full throttle to develop the courage to face the next day.

His room was awesome. He loved his room a lot.

He swept it on the third day of every month and loved to tamper around with the interior décor. There was none of the acting and the forced smiles.

He hung up his blazer, then sat at his computer desk. Power on.

It was 10 o’clock at night.

Naoyuki opened the browser. It’s super hot today – he thought, as he jumped over to the site.

The site he aimed for had updated its journal.

This new screen flashed into his eyes, and his face changed.

In a twinkle, those eyes deepened into bloodshot, while his mouth widened into a snarl. An expression of joy or pleasure.

That vulgar look was hidden away from school. The look of a person with an obviously bad personality. A look that aimed to entrap others.

He couldn’t relax there, and always had needless worry.

Title: The Two For Today

Today too, I found myself in that shitty school with that shitty class.

Comparison: A hikkomori and myself. Essentially both of us are beings of equal existence – in that we’re wasting our time, are we not? That was what I was thinking. Tension Release.

As a high-level school, it’s a joke. Once I graduate, I’ll be happy if I drown.

Aren’t high school students supposed to be adults already? I was mistaken.

Intellectual conversation and grown-up relationships? Nil.

At the very least, it’s within human nature to have a sublime striving towards transcendence, but the longer I find myself in this class, the more I feel we’re returning to the path of the mountain monkeys.

The idea that humans have evolved to some level of intelligence – if you were to ask my opinion – is a complete lie.

Without further ado. Let’s get on with the two for today.

Number 1:

Solely living for instinct – a human bitch. Not a woman. A bitch. Not even a girl. A bitch. Intelligence deficiency, and lacking in any kind of chastity or sweetness whatsoever. On first impression: the conduct of a Neanderthal – and afterwards I carried within me a strong despair for humanity. When you get close, you’re hit with a strange smell. Confirmation: bathes, at the very least – once every two days. It rouses fear within a person. In that case, with such a repugnant being, she rouses my hate and has inflicted countless heavy crimes upon me. Guilty.

Number 2:

Unable to complete any process within a time limit – a complete idiot. Despite not even adding up to a human, he still harbors a pride larger than most. If he could even take a look at himself in public, he would already be drowning in tears of disgrace. A weak and brittle ego. Within his club – god… can I just stop halfway already? Despite having no one against him – completely intolerant of failure, and furthermore he’ll scoff at any miss in a loud and conspicuous manner. Any human charm or sincerity? Zero. His existence must not be permitted. Guilty.